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Ancient Egyptian deities: Re
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also Ra, Pre

Re     Re, raw, was the Egyptian sun god and creator god. He had three aspects: Khepri, the morning; Horakhty, the midday; and Atem, the afternoon. He was usually depicted in human form with a falcon head, crowned with the sun disc encircled by the uraeus (a stylized representation of the sacred cobra).
    The sun itself was taken to be either his body or his eye. Known as the Eye of Re it was identified with many goddesses, Hathor and Sekhmet being the most important ones.
    In his solar barque he crossed the sky from east to west every day and passed through the Duat populated by the stars at night on another solar barque. He was beset by many dangers on his nightly passage, chief among them the serpent Apopis against whom he was protected by Seth.

Thoth and the goddess Maat mark out thy course for thee day by day and every day. Thine enemy the Serpent hath been given over to the fire. The Serpent- fiend Sebau hath fallen headlong, his forelegs are bound in chains, and his hind legs hath Ra carried away from him. [1]
Thou in thy shrine hast joy, for the Serpent-fiend Nak hath been judged by the fire, and thy heart shall rejoice for ever. [2]
    Mankind was said to have sprung from Re's tears and the gods Hu, authority, and Sia, mind, from blood drawn from his penis.
They are the drops of blood which came forth from the phallus of Ra when he went forth to perform his own mutilitation. These drops of blood sprang into being under the forms of the gods Hu and who are in the bodyguard of Ra, and who accompany the god Tem daily and every day. [1]

    According to the cosmology of Heliopolis, Re had created himself, either out of a primordial lotus blossom, or on the first land to emerge from the primeval waters. He then created Shu (air) and Tefnut (moisture), who in turn gave birth to the sky, the goddess Nut, and the earth god Geb. In the Nekht Papyrus his relationships to other gods is a bit different:

O Ra, who art Heru-Khuti, the divine man-child, the heir of eternity, self-begotten and self-born, king of the earth, prince of the Tuat (the Other World), governor of Aukert, thou didst come from the Water-god, thou didst spring from the Sky-god Nu, who doth cherish thee and order thy members. ... Thy mother Nut is esteemed by thy father Nu  [2]
    By the early third millennium BCE the kings lost their position as creator and centre of the world and Re's pre-eminence became such that the pharaohs took to calling themselves "sons of Re" and incorporating the name of Re into their own names (Djedefre, Khafre etc).
Thou art the Ruler of all the gods. [2]
    After death, the Egyptian monarch was said to ascend into the sky to join the entourage of the sun god.
    Thus, Re was also considered to be a god of the Duat, the Realm of the Dead. As such he was depicted as a ram-headed figure. During the 21st Dynasty (ca. 1000 BCE) he replaced with increasing frequency Osiris in the traditional offering formula. He was often combined with other deities, with Osiris in the formula Re in Osiris, Osiris in Re and with Amen, the main god of the New Kingdom, to form Amen-Re.
    The Egyptians thought that at the end of time the world would disappear into the waters of chaos. Re prophesied in the Myth of the Destruction of Mankind:
I will then return into the Nun, from which I came into existence.
S. M. elSebaie, The Destiny of the World: A Study on the End of the Universe in the Light of Ancient Egyptian Texts, Thesis, University of Toronto 2000, p.29

    Re's principal cult centre was at Heliopolis, near modern Cairo, Helios was his Greek counterpart.


[1] From the Papyrus of Ani, translated by E.A. Wallis Budge
[2] From the Papyrus of Nekht

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